As those who teach or live with autistic individuals know, schedules are a necessary tool, not only for teaching, but for just getting through the day. For Nigel, his schedule is a lifeline, a beacon to show him the way. It has always been so. When so much about dealing with people is unpredictable, it comforts him to know what he’s supposed to be doing when (of course, this does not usually apply at bedtime).
I found this description of schedules for autistic students at Specialed.us:
Definition: A daily visual schedule is a critical component in a structured environment. A visual schedule will tell the student with autism what activities will occur and in what sequence.
- Visual schedules are important for children with autism because they:
- Help address the child’s difficulty with sequential memory and organization of time.
- Assist children with language comprehension problems to understand what is expected of them (5).
- Lessen the anxiety level of children with autism, and thus reduce the possible occurrence of challenging behaviors, by providing the structure for the student to organize and predict daily and weekly events.
- Assist the student in transitioning independently between activities and environments by telling them where they are to go next.
- Can increase a student’s motivation to complete less desired activities by strategically alternating more preferred with less-preferred activities on the student’s individual visual schedule.
Example: By placing a “computer” time after “math”, the student may be more motivated to complete math knowing that “computer” time will be next.
For the student with autism, the consistent use of a visual schedule is an extremely important skill. It has the potential to increase independent functioning throughout his life – at school, home and community.
Without a doubt, schedules are highly effective tools. But Nigel’s schedules over the years have been much more than that. They have been a type of therapy. And I’m sure they will continue to function as such perhaps for all his life.
Yesterday I wrote about the type of homeschooling program I’m doing with Nigel and how I designed it. Here is his weekly schedule:
Time: What we are doing Monday through Thursday
8:00 alarm rings
8:10 out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash face
8:15 eat breakfast, rinse bowl
8:20 brush teeth
8:23 get dressed
8:30 start homeschool: Math: 1 pg of If Mathematics, 1 pg of Core Skills Math
9:00 Writing/Language Arts: 1 pg Quick Practice Writing Skills; Essay Writing, either 1 section with Mom or 1 pg by self
9:30 Science: go online to study topics from Grade Level Standards; take 5 footnotes from websites
10:10 snack & 10-min. break
10:20 Social Science: read books from library or go to websites to study topics from Grade Level Standards; take 5 footnotes from each source
11:00 Physical Education or Library Time
Mon: bike ride on Greenway
Tues: 15 min. yoga/15 min. push-ups & weights
Wed: walk to Phoenix library or drive to TMS library
check out 3 items: 1 social science book, 1 educational DVD, 1 book of choice
Thurs: 15 min. yoga/15 min. push-ups & weights
11:30T/Th Elective for the week (see elective list)
12:00 prepare & eat lunch
12:30 check responsibility chart & do chores for that day: when chores complete, you have free time
On Fridays I go into the office for a few hours, so that day has a different schedule. Nigel gets up at the same time and then takes one of the aforementioned educational videos, watches it, takes 5 “footnotes,” as he likes to call them, and then types a summary on his computer to show me when I get home. I am fortunate that he has reached a point where he will be okay for a few hours alone at home, following his schedule. Maybe it’s a lifeline for me too.